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Why are Public schools so confusing?!!

(37 Posts)
MonroeMacy Thu 29-Oct-15 18:59:15

First time posting anything on this site, I'm so confused and slightly panicking because everyone around me is panicking.

I have a DSS at Harrow and a DSD at Cheltham Ladies C. When they were going through the process, I mainly kept out of it as their mother was so aware and in charge of everything, so didn't want to step on her toes.

DS is now in year 4, (8 years old) and his Prep school have set up meetings with all the parents to give them a run down on which schools to be aware of, which they would recommend, which to go look at etc.

It's always just been an idea to try and get DS into Harrow as that's where DSS is at right now although won't be anymore when it would be time for DS to go

At our meeting DS' school said that they believed he would massively struggle at Harrow, even getting him in would be an uphill battle as he's not the type they usually take, academically he's suited but personality wise they feel Harrow would eat him alive. He's very quiet, like a mouse, won't speak up even if he needs the toilet, prefers individual activists to massive group ones etc.

Eton they also said no to as although he might find it easier to get into as they apparently prioritse those with academic abilities, he would for similar reasons struggle there.

They have suggested his best options would be St Pauls and Winchester College, although they don't send a lot of children to those particular schools, they seemed quite confident at being able to get DS into them and most importantly that he would be far better suited there.

I personally prefer St Pauls as he can do Day instead of boarding but so far that's the only reason, I have on favouring SP.

DSS and his mother, think I'm crazy for not even thinking about registering him for Harrow anymore, she says that the HM most likely only said it because they need to diversify where their school leaver go hmm . I don't actually think that's the case, HM and the school have always put DS first and know him inside out.

DSD is friends with a few Paulina's and is rooting for St Pauls.

Loads of the other parents are being very secretive about where they're thinking of sending their DS' so can't get any decent advice from off the playground.

So I'm confused about whether I should register DS for Harrow as everyone thinks it's brilliant or go with the schools advice and try for the other two schools.

Does anyone have kids at any of the schools above, are the school right in thinking a quiet more academic boy would be better suited for St Pauls / Winchester over Harrow?

Gruach Thu 29-Oct-15 20:18:35

Well ... the advice doesn't sound confusing but you don't seem entirely clear about how much you trust your HM. You say the school knows your DS inside out - but at the same time you're considering sidestepping their opinion.

Remember the trust has to go both ways. How are you going to get your DS into Harrow with a less than enthusiastic Head's Report? And how is the prep going to feel over the next few years if they believe you're setting your child up to fail (and make them look bad at the same time)?

From observation and experience I'd say E and H would both be miserable places for a quiet child who dislikes group activity. It's a lot of years to spend feeling that you're constantly underperforming in areas that the rest of the group value. (This is not to say that he wouldn't be given every opportunity to excel at the things he's good at, but the prevailing ethos would be a poor fit.)

But you do still have a little time for him to grow into himself. Once you've visited the recommended schools you'll be better able to assess whether you may need your HM to suggest some other options.

happygardening Thu 29-Oct-15 21:02:26

I'm surprised that SPS was suggested I live with an Old Pauline and know quite a few, they are all remarkably similar personalities. I can think of lots of words to describe them but "quiet like a mouse" and not speaking up is definitely not words I would ever think of in a million years! I also understand its exceedingly difficult to get a place, we turned down the place that DS2 was offered he's pretty confident and articulate but reserved through choice and not someone who chooses to push himself forward and we felt it was not what we wanted or suitable and we knew the school well and was impressed with it.
DS2 is at Winchester they restrict the number of applicants to about 2.5 per place, DS is very happy there and the environment has really suited him. All the Wykamists I've met are definitely not brash, many seem reserved when you first meet them but they are very articulate and are certainly not afraid to speak up if necessary. It is a caring school, generally the boys look after each other and physical aggression amongst themselves is very frowned upon by the boys although there is a significant amount of banter. But although I accept your DS is still very young I personally do not see a "quiet as a mouse" afraid to even ask for the loo child, prefers individual activities to massive groups activities surviving let alone thriving in a full boarding environment. Boarding is about communal living, even if your DS doesn't do team sports there are plenty of group activities, house completions etc and there is little or no privacy. DS2 (whos boarded for over 11 years) said to board you have to be emotionally pretty strong and resilient, and you do have to be a self starter, obviously in the beginning you get support from those around you with day to day living but your quickly expected to shift for yourself or if you can't actively seek help.

Orbiting Thu 29-Oct-15 21:41:46

Monroe any reason why not Westminster if he is academically up to SPS but more of an introvert at this stage? It sounds as though his prep school are advising against the schools which prefer the multi-talented enthusiastic joiners-in. If that is not your DS then listen to them and your own instincts. You could keep the boarding option open by registering with Winchester but unless he changes by year 6 I think he is unlikely to relish the idea of boarding.

AnyoneButAndre Thu 29-Oct-15 21:54:45

Why would you ever choose boarding if you have a chance of a really good day option? Especially if your son appears temperamentally less suited to boarding.

MonroeMacy Thu 29-Oct-15 22:02:17

@Gruach, I suppose I'm confused about how much weight I should give the HM's opinion/analysis, I was all ready to follow through with it but then doubts settled in, mostly coming from the people around me, 5 years is a long time and DS might grow out of his shell and be more outgoing, but the last thing I want to do is set DS up to fail and the school haven't been wrong so far, so I think I will be following those instructions, it's too big a decision to just base on a 'he might' it's just difficult when the advice isn't what you wanted to hear. We got given 5 school recommendations and then HM narrowed them down to 2, we're adviced to go and see all 5 though, which we will do.

@happygardening I am massively worried about boarding, even though he's only 8, I think he'll dislike it, he's practically an only child, never had to share anything but HM was surprisingly keen, kept pushing for it, and when I said I was worried about boarding, he said we had 5 years to get him use to the idea, the fact that St Pauls offers Day is why I'm leaning towards it, but from the few Paulina's I met, the girls don't come across as quiet, so I'm assuming the boys are the same but the Prep is taking steps to bring DS out of his shell and I've signed him up for more group clubs (e.g Cubs, I'm hoping their nights away will give me some indication on how he might handle it and give him some experience of sleeping away from home) I know it's very difficult to get into but school seemed very very confident they could manage it, most of their kids go on to Eton/Radley, only 1 from last years leavers went on to St Paul's, but I feel like they could manage it, they haven't given me a reason to doubt them.

It's just really daunting to have to make decisions now that will effect DS 5 years from now when he could be a completely different person.

MonroeMacy Thu 29-Oct-15 22:10:03

@Orbiting, Westminister was bought up and we were advised to go look at it, which we're planning to do but HM seems to think SP's would be the better fit, I have no experience with any of the schools, so can only take his word for now.

@AnyonebutAndre The fact that St Paul's has the option of being a Day Student is a massive positive, but it might not be the right fit for DS, even if he's only going to be there a few hours a day instead of 24/7 he could be miserable in those few hours, if the place just isn't right for him, so I'd rather consider the boarding school for now and look into it a little more.

DarklingJane Thu 29-Oct-15 22:19:50

Monroe, the schools are a lot less confusing if you visit them with your son rather than listening to other people's opinions based on what they did.

So your prep school have advised against Eton and Harrow based on experience. SPS and Winchester are great schools also but you say the prep school has little experience of sending boys to these schools, at which point I would be asking how are they so confident they could get him a place. Go and visit them with your son.

Winchester are on record (also , on website grin) as saying they encourage "an unaffected modesty of manner." This is not the same as being quiet as a mouse.

My advice would be to get into proportion other people's opinions based on where they went. Try to understand where your HM's expertise lies. And then research and visit for yourself. If you prefer day school, look at a number of them not just SPS - great as it is.

You will get some great advice from all over once you try to see the wood for the trees.

Good Luck .

Gruach Thu 29-Oct-15 22:20:56

You have not so far mentioned how your DS himself feels about it all. To be honest I wonder if, with older step siblings apparently thriving at their schools, he'll find it extremely hard to voice any misgivings he might have. (If he does.) Obviously he may not be familiar with all the schools mentioned - but he'll know which of his classmates is destined for which school and they'll all have formed a picture of who fits where. So he will know if he's being encouraged into the "wrong" list.

That's a cumbersome way of saying that he probably won't be a completely different person in five years - just perhaps a more concrete version of the 8 year old.

Take him to look at the schools - see which one makes his eyes light up. Competition for places at such well known schools is becoming more and more fierce, he will have to want to get there for himself - so trust him to guide you to the right choice!

DarklingJane Thu 29-Oct-15 22:29:21

I think I am in some part at least agreeing with Gruach albeit x post.

LittleBearPad Thu 29-Oct-15 22:31:47

From what you say make sure you look at day schools too - not just St Pauls. It sounds as though you aren't necessarily sold on the boarding aspect.

SheGotAllDaMoves Fri 30-Oct-15 05:56:10

IME some male teachers at prep are convinced that boarding will bring boys out of their shells.

Which they see as A Good Thing.

Personally I find it illogical at best, sexist at best ( in that boys should not be allowed to be quiet with the underlying belief also thT they need to be removed from their mothers' influence).

However, my observation is that boarding did not change anyone's inherent personality. It just made some ill suited boys unhappy.

SheGotAllDaMoves Fri 30-Oct-15 05:57:00

Ps look at Westminster. Quiet boys can do very well there smile.

Orbiting Fri 30-Oct-15 06:10:10

Agree with the others, visit those and some other day options and take into account that your DS may want to please or be influenced by ' playground 'discussions and kudos of certain schools but actually when he visits be drawn to other ones. As he is an only DC the future option of weekly boarding schools or flexible boarding might also be worth considering even if full boarding is n't for him.
For the record I don't think it is just a matter of confidence. Boarding schools like Eton, Harrow allow little time for quiet contemplation and are best suited to a boy who wants to be very busy doing a variety of extracurricular activities especially in the early years of senior school. Those sort of inclinations are usually evident at a young age. Full boarding schools are also enjoyed most by DCs who love being with their friends and the 'banter'of a group. Your DS will tell you what he likes best doing. He may change from how much time he wants to spend with you but if for example even now he likes lots of time to himself then that is less likely to change.

ishouldcocoa Fri 30-Oct-15 06:46:46

I don't have any experience of the schools you mention, but I've been where you are with my DS. DH was very keen to send him to Charterhouse, and we went through all the motions, visiting, putting down deposits etc etc. DS seemed to like it, but was in awe of the place generally.

I felt that it wasn't the school for him. I've always believed that happy children lean... And that unhappy children don't. I worried that DS wasn't academic enough and would really struggle at Charterhouse.

I started to explore other options, that had good track records of pastoral care, and a good mix of children. He's now a weekly boarder at Cranleigh, and is loving every minute of it.

The bottom line is that your DS needs to be comfortable and happy wherever he is. That's the best starting point, and go from there...

Good luck. It's a stressful time.

happygardening Fri 30-Oct-15 08:01:00

I'm rather surprised that your prep school is "pretty confident" that it could get your DS a place at SPS especially with very little experience of doing this. IME of prep heads advising about school which admittedly 7 years out of date (I understand from MN that competition for places is even stronger now) that for very over subscribed schools like SPS Harrow Eton most heads at best say things like "strong candidate" but also strongly advise parent not to pin all their hopes on getting a place and suggest at least one other less oversubscribed back up.
As said above you do need to go and look at them although IMO it's very difficult to work out what they're really all about on guided tours/open days. I guess when it comes to the actual interview as they've so many strong candidates to choose from then if they feel your DS isn't suitable because he won't thrive then he won't be successful. I certainly got the impression when I was looking round boarding schools that along with academic ability, an enthusiasm for and the right sort of personality for boarding was very essential for success.
I work with children and always slightly wince when I here comments like taking steps to bring a child out of his shell. I don't believe or see any evidence that you can change a persons fundamental personality a huge amount, and I regularly see parents trying to do this. We as parents have to accept that our children are what they are, to try and make them into something they're not because this can cause them a huge amount of stress and unhappiness. Your DS is only 8 leave him alone and let him mature and change on his own, if he's going to become more confident and out going it will happen on its own if he's in an environment where he feels supported and cared for.

SheGotAllDaMoves Fri 30-Oct-15 08:07:47

happy I often say that the very best thing my parents gave me was their acceptance.

They just kinda liked me as I was and didn't try to fundamentally change me. Even the bad bits grin.

happygardening Fri 30-Oct-15 08:10:40

Absolutely Shesgot OP don't try and change your DS's personality to fit the schools you like, try and find a school that will fit him.

happygardening Fri 30-Oct-15 08:20:58

This is Tatlers reveiw of SPS reading the opening two sentences it conforms my experience that it's not a school for a boy whos "quiet like a mouse"

IguanaTail Fri 30-Oct-15 08:26:01

I think it's silly thinking a particular 'type' or 'character' suits a particular school. Go and visit them and make your own mind up. Not every child in Harrow will be wildly outgoing.

Orbiting Fri 30-Oct-15 08:26:32

I agree (again) with above posters. It is about opportunities but not forced opportunities (although persuasion by school and peers helps in teenage years) and compulsory group living. I think full boarding environments when it goes against personality means that some boys create a 'shell' and 'falseness' that continues in later life.
I have a DC at a full boarding and one at a day school both equally confident near the end of their school careers and availing themselves of the opportunities that they are drawn to. They are very happy at their respective schools and neither would want to switch.

Noteventhebestdrummer Fri 30-Oct-15 08:29:22

Move to Manchester and go for the best and best value boys grammar school!

Gruach Fri 30-Oct-15 08:34:49

Has your HM suggested any co-ed schools OP? (Is the prep mixed or single sex?) It's possible your DS might suit a less macho culture.

YesThisIsMe Fri 30-Oct-15 08:35:27

What about that St Paul's review suggests it's not suitable for a quieter boy? You'd clearly need to be very intelligent, hardworking and genuinely devoted to learning, but none of those are incompatible with being quiet. Obviously a child who struggles to speak up at all is going to have trouble at any school, and whilst I agree with the basic "accept your child for who he is" point, everyone has to acquire enough minimum confidence to put their hands up in class etc. But brilliant but shy should be compatible with a school that's all about the academics.

OTOH, assuming that the DS is brilliant, he might find that being at a school where he's clearly amongst the brightest might give him more confidence, rather than going to a school where everybody is at his level and he's nothing special.

happygardening Fri 30-Oct-15 08:52:07

"This famed Barnes institution offers 45 acres of opportunities for boys who are intelligent enough, organised enough and *motivated enough to grab it with both hands*"
I would have thought that a child who is currently too shy to put his hand up to ask to go to the loo is unlikely to be motivated enough enough to garb with both hands the myriad opportunities that St Pauls offers. Secondly he will have to complete for those opportunities with many who are exceedingly confident and motivated.
The head at Win Coll once told us that Win Coll is not a school for "tramplers" my DH knows SPS very well however great he feels it is there are a lot of "tramplers" there.

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